Editor’s Note, April 26, 2022: A tiny manuscript by then-teenage author Charlotte Brontë will be returned to the parsonage she lived in all her life. Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), a British nonprofit, purchased the book, which contains Brontë’s only remaining unpublished poetry, for $1.25 million, and will donate it to the Brontë Parsonage Museum at Haworth, England, according to a museum release.
When the manuscript was put on the market, according to the museum, the FNL secured the funding in just two weeks. Read on to learn more about why the long-lost book is heralded as a historic literary find.
Nearly 200 years ago, a 13-year-old created a small book of poems in tiny, print-like text and sewed it into a miniature book with a needle and thread.
This teenage author was Charlotte Brontë, who would later write Jane Eyre and become one of the most acclaimed novelists in English literature. And this manuscript – lost for years and recently rediscovered in a 19th century schoolbook – has just sold for $1.25 million, Barrons” reports Josh Nathan-Kazis.
The identity of the buyer has not yet been revealed, said Manhattan bookseller Henry Wessells Barrons. But the fate of the unpublished poems inside could depend on the buyer of the manuscript.
James Cummins Bookseller has partnered with Maggs Bros. of London for the sale, which took place at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. The public can see the book in New York from yesterday (Brontë’s birthday) until April 24.
The 15-page book “A Book of Rhythms [sic] by Charlotte Brontë, sold by person and printed by herself” contains 10 unpublished poems.
The book’s small handwriting the size of a playing card, intended to resemble the font of a printing press, is “impossible to read at a quick glance without a magnifying glass”, writes the New York Times‘Jennifer Schüssler.
Its content sheds light on the personality of its young author. In the table of contents, Brontë attributes the poems to the imaginary authors “Marquis de Duro and Lord Charles Wellesley”, then denies that they are “actually written by me”.
On the back of the title page, she writes apologetically: “The following are attempts at rhyme of an inferior nature, it must be admitted, but they are none the less my best.”
Miniature books played an outsized role in the lives of the author, his brother Branwell, and sisters Emily and Anne. Educated, precocious and isolated in the small Yorkshire town of Haworth, the children created a “sophisticated fantasy world”, the merchants wrote in a statement, which kept them busy well into adulthood. Charlotte and Branwell imagined Angria, and Emily and Anne created Gondal, worlds of adventure that inspired little books, poems, and eventually the sister’s novels.
“Just think of the children of Brontë telling and writing stories among themselves, learning at home in a remote village, then blossoming, briefly, to write the books that have since been read by millions, and also leaving behind handmade things like this manuscript,” Wessells told CNN’s Aya Elamroussi.
The manuscripts fell into private hands and were scattered in various collections around the world after the untimely deaths of the four Brontë siblings. In recent years, British cultural institutions and the Haworth Parsonage Museum, which runs the siblings’ childhood home and the largest library of Brontë documents, have purchased many of the manuscripts at astronomical prices.
In 2011, one of the little books sold for $1.07 million after a bidding war erupted between rival museums, and in 2021 a trove of documents, including a rare manuscript of the poems by Emily, culminated in a landmark campaign to raise over $20 million to buy. the whole library. The appeal was successful and last December the Time reports, the institutions managed to purchase the entire collection intact.
The just-sold manuscript was last seen in public when it sold for $520 in New York in 1916; it was recently discovered in a private collection inside a letter-sized envelope nestled in the pages of a 19th-century schoolbook.
This 1829 edition is particularly valuable. Brontë scholar Claire Harman describes its contents as “Charlotte Brontë’s last unread poems”, according to the Time.
Charlotte Brontë was the last survivor of her literary siblings Emily and Anne, who wrote ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’; and Branwell, who struggled with alcoholism and was Charlotte’s childhood co-conspirator. Charlotte’s three siblings died of tuberculosis within eight months, aged around 30.
Although Charlotte succumbed to the same fate six years later, less than a year after her marriage, historians now believe she died of dehydration and starvation caused by hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of nausea. morning sickness that afflicted Kate Middleton during her pregnancies.
Due to the short lifespan of authors, any original Brontë manuscript is an incredible find for literature lovers. The titles of the poems in the little book have long been known from Brontë’s personal catalog of his works (among them “The Beauty of Nature”, “Song of an Exile” and “Seeing the Ruins of the Tower of Babel” ).
But the poems were never even summarized, much less published. It remains to be seen whether the future buyer will decide to make its content public.